Woe is WMATA from Michael Barone:
Believers in central planning should take a look at Washington’s Metro rail transit system. While they will find many things to like, they will also see examples of how central planners — and especially rail transit planners — can get things disastrously and expensively wrong. . . .
But then there are the bad things, which my colleagues at The Washington Examiner have documented at great length.
The escalators at the south side of the Dupont Circle station are being repaired and out of commission for — get this — nine months. This is Metro’s fifth busiest station.
Other escalators are often on the fritz. Metro’s designers didn’t put canopies over all of the escalators but left them out in the open. It turns out that it rains and even snows sometimes in Washington, and that water corrodes the metal escalator.
So there is no station serving Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia, which has become the largest office center between downtown Washington and Atlanta.
Joel Garreau, in researching his book “Edge City” on Tysons and similar clusters, asked Metro planners why they didn’t put a station there.
The reply: We never thought there would be any development there. Suburbs are for houses.
But Northern Virginia lawyer named Til Hazel, who handled land acquisition cases on the Capital Beltway, figured it out. He bought big parcels in the triangle between the Beltway, Leesburg Pike and Chain Bridge Road, and made millions developing Tysons.
Now Metro is trying to extend the Orange Line to Tysons and beyond to Dulles Airport. This would have been much cheaper when the system was planned in the early 1970s and much of the land in between was vacant. Now the costs are astronomical and construction deadlines seem far distant. But, hey, other systems are worse. New York opened its first subway line in 1906, but you still can’t take a subway to LaGuardia or Kennedy airports.
Central planners have trouble envisioning the future and, at least in the case of rail transit planners, have a bias toward recreating the past.
They love the idea of channeling the masses into central destinations and have had trouble imagining that suburbs developing beyond the leafy residential enclaves of the 1950s. They have been slow to see that airports would be a major destination.